Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) is recognised as one of the most influential female figures in the history of photography, and this album was compiled by her at the height of her powers. The images include examples of all three of her great photographic themes: portraits of illustrious men, including Sir John Herschel (who introduced her to photography); portraits of women, including the famous image of her niece Mrs Herbert Duckworth (the mother of Virginia Woolf); and friends and family in allegorical studies. The album includes two unrecorded photographs by Cameron of her maid Mary Hillier and an unrecorded variant of a third photograph of Hillier as Adriana. The album also reveals the name of a previously unidentified female sitter, now known to be Miss Sloane Stanley, a family friend of Julia Margaret Cameron.
This is the first time in 30 years that an album of Cameron's photographs compiled by her for presentation has been offered for sale at auction. Only 10 other such albums are recorded, nearly all of which are in institutional collections.
Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904), known as Val Prinsep, was an artist and writer, born on St Valentine's Day in Calcutta to Henry Thoby Prinsep, Indian civil servant and author, and his wife Sara Monckton, sister of Julia Margaret Cameron, and one of seven daughters of James Pattle. From 1851 the Prinseps lived at Little Holland House in Kensington. The house was shared with the artist George Frederic Watts and regular guests included Tennyson, Thackeray, Browning, Holman Hunt, Millais, Leighton, D.G. Rossetti, and Burne-Jones; many of these were photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron. Val Prinsep became an artist and was tutored by Watts, and in 1857 he came under the influence of Pre-Raphaelitism when invited by Rossetti to help decorate the Union debating chamber in Oxford with scenes from Mallory's Morte d'Arthur. Prinsep's closest friend was Frederic Leighton, and in 1889 the two built neighbouring studio houses in Holland Park Road. Prinsep exhibited at the Royal Academy and in 1877 was commissioned by Lord Lytton, viceroy of India, to paint the Delhi imperial assemblage to celebrate Queen Victoria's accession to the title empress of India. In 1884 Prinsep married Florence, daughter of Frederick Richard Leyland, a Liverpool shipping millionaire and patron of Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Whistler. Prinsep was elected a royal academician in 1894 and appointed professor of painting in 1901. He continued to paint every year until his death in 1904.
Julia Margaret Cameron photographed her nephew Val Prinsep on at least three occasions between 1864 and 1874 (on the last occasion Prinsep was dressed in costume as Henry VIII), and five different prints of these photographs are recorded [Cox and Ford 741-745]. It is interesting that Julia Margaret Cameron chose not to include any of her portraits of Prinsep in this album, however she did include a photograph of Val Prinsep (by an unidentified photographer) in the "Signor 1857" album (sold in these rooms, 12 December 2012, lot 65) which was presented to the artist G.F. Watts.
Cameron worked within a circle of painters and critics and is the photographer now most associated with Pre-Raphaelitism. "A woman with a vigorous mind and abundant imagination, Cameron adopted an inventive range of literary and historical themes, like her Pre-Raphaelite counterparts... and [usually] kept the settings and backgrounds of her photographs indistinct and closely cropped. Her images typically situate figure against background in a manner similar to paintings by Rossetti and Watts, whom she fervently esteemed." (Diane Waggoner in The Pre-Raphaelite Lens). The rediscovery of this Val Prinsep album is a significant event and contributes greatly to our knowledge and to the oeuvre of Julia Margaret Cameron.
The photographs appear in the following order (the titles to each image are those given by Cameron in this album):
1. Christobel (314 x 245mm.), [Cox and Ford 396]
2. Sir John Herschel life size (345 x 250mm.), [Cox and Ford 676]
3.Sir John Herschel with cap (336 x 254mm.), [Cox and Ford 674]
4. Adriana (355 x 256mm.), [unrecorded variant; cf. Cox and Ford 255]
5. Alfred Tennyson profile (249 x 202mm.), [Cox and Ford 796]
6. Henry Taylor, Rembrandt (249 x 194mm.), [Cox and Ford 781]
7. Henry Taylor, hand to beard (257 x 202mm.), [Cox and Ford 783]
9. Miss [Hatty and Eleanor] Campbell's group (315 x 255mm.), [Cox and Ford 187]
10. Mary Mother (320 x 264mm.), [Cox and Ford 101]
11. New Mary [Hillier] (314 x 240mm.), [unrecorded; cf. Cox and Ford 256]
12. Miss Spartali as Hypatia (310 x 256mm.), [Cox and Ford 469]
13. New Mary [Hillier] (330 x 243mm.), [Cox and Ford 256]
14. Miss D[uckworth] light on profile (342 x 262mm., oval), [Cox and Ford 311]
15. Friar Laurence (329 x 255mm.), [Cox and Ford 1089]
16. Miss D[uckworth] life size portrait (335 x 257mm.), [Cox and Ford 310]
17. The Mountain Nymph (355 x 258mm.), [Cox and Ford 335]
18. Life sized new pensive Mary [Hiller] (241 x 229mm.), [unrecorded; cf. Cox and Ford 256]
19. Miss [Hatty] Campbell profile (322 x 239mm.), [Cox and Ford 183]
20. The Echo (292 x 235mm.), [Cox and Ford 181]
21. Madonna Purissima (336 x 258mm.), [Cox and Ford 105]
22. Beatrice (345 x 250mm.), [Cox and Ford 406]
23. Miss Sloane Stanley (302 x 245mm.), [Cox and Ford 569 (described as "Unknown Woman")]
24. King David (262 x 227mm.), [Cox and Ford 164]
25. Sappho (317 x 248mm.), [Cox and Ford 253]
26. The Neopolitan (278 x 215mm.), [Cox and Ford 404]
27. Madonna Aspettante (250 x 198mm.), [Cox and Ford 50]
28. Miss D[uckworth] full face (288 x 219mm.), [Cox and Ford 308]
29. Contadina (324 x 244mm.), [Cox and Ford 403]
30. Miss [Hatty] Campbell oval (281 x 232mm., oval), [Cox and Ford 182]
31. Other Friar Laurence (285 x 234mm.), [Cox and Ford 1090]
32. Archie [Cameron] (243 x 157mm.), [Cox and Ford 159]
33. My Henry [Herschel Hay Cameron] (268 x 216mm.), [Cox and Ford 623]
Number 8, a photograph of Charles Darwin, has been removed. This clearly happened some time ago judging by the dust accumulation around the stub of its mount.
A detailed condition report is available on request.
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